When I became a mom, I was obsessed with keeping up appearances and looking like my pre-mom self. But pre-mom me had all the time in the world and lived within walking distance of every possible amenity. My obsession was basically impossible, and I was really hard on myself about it.
Fast forward a few years and I’m still a work in progress but maybe that’s just the stage of motherhood I’m in – knee-deep in poopy nappies and tantrums. What I’m learning is that we need to take every day as it comes, while thinking long-term. A little confusing? Let me explain.
Social media paints this beautiful image of self-care – a woman relaxed in an insane bubble bath, lying in a sauna blanket, or making several pitstops in one day to different beauty therapists. (Okay, that last one does seem like a dream. One day and it’s all done!) These images all say the same thing: money. Whether you have it or not doesn’t matter, anyone can take a bubble bath! The problem is that self-care is a skill and a habit. It takes a certain type of person who feels perfectly comfortable caring for their needs. I didn’t have this mastered before having kids, so motherhood dismantled everything. There was no habit set in stone. There was nothing.
I’m a firm believer in making lemons out of lemonade. In fact, I once had a whole website devoted to this belief. I believe that the meaning of success is thriving in whatever situation you’re in, rather than controlling and changing everything. I couldn’t change certain things as quickly as I wanted, for example: I couldn’t leave my job because I needed the money. I couldn’t move house because I felt like it. I couldn’t leave the house because of lockdown.
So, my husband and I put things into motion to get us from A to Z and it felt like a neverending process. Every day we chipped away at our goals and some days were better or worse than others. We took every day as it came while keeping our minds on the future.
Without even realising it, we found ourselves picking up the keys to our new house. And so we moved and this house gives me so much peace, knowing it’s ours. We picked a neighbourhood instead of the countryside which makes me happier still. Because we chose our home carefully, I eventually left my job because we could make do with one income. (And you know, the world stopped ending so we can all leave our homes again)
Learning self-care has been a lot like that but wow is the dedication so worth it! I still fail a lot. We painted our house recently and I wore my sandals while painting. Of course, I got paint on my sandals but taking the time to clean it off seemed impossible. My husband, bless his heart, saw me wearing my paint-splattered sandals yesterday and cleaned them while scolding me. It’s like, I eat 2 to 3 meals a day and workout consistently, but I can’t clean some paint off my shoes? And I’m still wearing them in public??? I wouldn’t hesitate to make time to clean paint off of my husband’s shoes, but I can’t do it for myself.
Bubble baths and beauty appointments are the cherry on top and I’ve discovered that you can’t buy your way to a consistent self-care routine that feels nurturing. Letting go of what I think it should look like has been integral to my progress. I used to get so upset when my kids would hop into the shower with me and now it feels like an honour that they want to be so close to me all the time. What really matters is picking the movie every once and a while, ironing my clothes and not just my husband’s (I hate ironing), eating chocolate when I crave it, and taking a magnesium supplement because why else am I craving chocolate? It matters to me that I have smooth-shaven skin and shiny hair and that I’m making time to write on Ardent Fancy.
The ways that I fail are numerous! I forget to eat lunch on busy days… days that are only busy because I decided to make them that way—going too long between toning my hair. Not writing often enough for Ardent Fancy or eating too much chocolate because I forgot to eat lunch.
But I’m trying! And what I’ve learned is that trying counts for a lot more than winning!